A Culture Shocked Wendy

After spending a couple of weeks on one of our projects, no volunteer wants to go home. I know I would rather wake up with a baby elephant in my back garden, playing with children who appreciate your love more than anything or helping those who are much less fortunate than myself, than spending 9-5 in a stuffy office worrying about staplers, invoices and work politics.

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Mr Incredible, certainly has a hard time adjusting to office life

Heading home is never easy when you have been having the time of your life for the past few weeks. In the same way that volunteers have to adjust to the customs and everyday life of Thailand, they also have to re-adjust to their lives back in their home countries. This is otherwise known as;

Reverse Culture Shock

I know that I had a really hard time when I first went back to England after being in Thailand. I found Thailand to really fit my personality and the way that I think that people should treat each other. Being back in England with a culture I am not fond of, weather that is bad to say the least and people who don’t treat each other as nicely as they do here, made me genuinely sad.

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When I visit Suvarnabhumi Airport I see a lot of people not looking forward to going home

I found it difficult to merge myself back with the routines and expectations of a Western county. For some people, they manage to slip back into their lives very easily, being only enriched with their time as a volunteer but some people however, myself included, find life lacking.

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Reverse Culture Shock can manifest itself in many forms from;

– Boredom

– Reverse homesickness

– Misunderstanding of your behaviour from others

– Feelings of alienation

– Negative feelings towards Westerners and

– Restlessness and being irritable

There isn’t anything wrong with feeling like this, but it can be very hard to adjust to going to back to your previous life after having such a life changing experience. The best ways I found to deal with Reverse Culture Shock was to just leave the country as soon as possible. I understand however that this is incredibly impractical for most people though so if you aren’t able to just up sticks and move then you can always try some of the following ideas;

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Talk About Your Experience

When you first get home, everyone you know will be desperate to hear all about your experiences and the adventures you have been getting up to. Embrace this time. Use it as a means to relive some of your most incredible, hilarious and meaningful memories. Sometimes just talking about what you miss will be enough to stop you missing it for a while; just be careful not to turn into the person that is always saying ‘When I was in Thailand…..’, ‘In Thailand…’, ‘That reminds me of when I did_____ in Thailand…..’. Your stories can become boring for people when you constantly tell them 😀

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Skype to the rescue; as always

Stay In Touch

Make sure to keep in touch with all of the people you met on your journey that mean something to you. Who knows when you might be able to meet them again. Losing connections with people that were involved in an important part of your life is terrible and something I hope never to do. Talking and keeping in touch with the people you met along the way is also a great way of reliving your experiences together so that you don’t ever feel too far away from your adventure.

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Scrapbooks or Photo Albums

I know this is definitely more of a girly thing to do but I can assure you, that if you pick up lots of small trinkets during your trip, like napkins from restaurants, cards from hotels, postcards or even something simple like leaves and keep hold of them, then you will be able to create something that you can look back on in years to come and smile at. I keep everything, so I have a lot of scrapbook type things, but if you aren’t the hoarding kind like me then photos, quotes or even written notes can have the same effect. Writing down hilarious things in the moment will ensure that you don’t forget them and when you look back on it in a year, five years or even fifteen years, you will remember that ridiculous moment.

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Stimulate Your Senses

A great way to get over Reverse Culture Shock is to eat your favourite foods from your trip. For me that would be any of the food I eat at Gois everyday, she has the best Goi Djab, Salads, Pad Thai and dishes I don’t think even have a name. If I went back to England and managed to find somewhere that could make those dishes I know that I would feel like I was back in Thailand; something that would definitely make me happy!

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Be a tortoise for a bit 🙂

Take It Slow

If you really are struggling to integrate back into your Western life then take it slowly. I know it can be terribly overwhelming to visit something as normal as a Walmart or an ASDA, when you have been used to living in the Elephant Village, or spending time with children who will never even hope to have access to such a large amount of food. I found it difficult to adjust to how much the Western world wastes in comparison to Thailand, here people make a living from recycling, where as in England people don’t really care too much about what happens to their trash. Don’t try to push yourself to adjust quicker than you feel you can and let people know that you are having some trouble so that they can help you as well.

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Plan Another Trip

This doesn’t always have to be back to the same place, for some, travelling itself it the thing that they miss. By having something to work towards that you know will make you happy will provide you with a distraction and also motivation; two things that will really help you with dealing with Reverse Culture Shock.

If you are wanting to experience our life changing volunteering projects for yourself then just take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, there you will find everything you need!

After that you can always relive your Thailand experience or get excited about your impending one by following my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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How To Contact A Wendy

Talking is always positive. That’s why I talk too much.
– Louis C. K.

Traveling is by far one of my most favourite things to do, I can’t even begin to describe the overwhelming feelings I get when I get to experience a new place, it’s smells, it’s sights and also it’s customs. For me, I grew up in a military family so I am used to not being around my family for long periods of time, I know that this isn’t the case for everyone though and that keeping in contact with parents, partners and friends is sometimes one of the most important things to do each day, so I thought I would write a post about the easiest ways to keep your loved ones informed of what your up to 😀

Thailand isn’t a backwards country, we do have the Internet. I do still get shocked by the looks of shock on some people’s faces when they realise that Thailand has WiFi and mobile Internet, you would think that some people think we all live in the jungle and spearfish for our food everyday???

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People do spear fish but then they put the pictures of their catch up on Facebook and Instagram!

Finding somewhere to hook up to the internet in Thailand requires a 5 minute walk in any direction, being a newly developed country, Thailand is exploding with modern technology as its young people are desperate to become tech savvy.

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Even tiny villages have access to the internet!

Keeping in contact with your family and friends back at home is something that is very simple to do and here are just a few ways to do it.

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There are more blogs about cats than humans

Blogging

One thing that I have noticed becoming more popular with the volunteers we have with us is blogging. Now I know a little bit about blogging, I don’t do it so much on a personal level like my volunteers do but I do it on a professional/travel level. I find that it is an amazing platform that not only let’s people who care about you see what you are up to, but also people from all over the world. I use WordPress as my primary blogging site but I was recently approached by a company called Glipho who have asked me to write for the travel section of their blogging network site; something that was both very surprising and humbling 🙂

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Take a look at my newly created Glipho account here.

There are two other very famous and useful blogging sites which are, Blogger and also Tumblr, I myself have a Tumblr which you can by clicking here >>> Tumblr. Tumblr is more of a photo based blog site which is great to see an overview of what people are doing, whereas Blogger and WordPress are writing platforms where you write blogs about whatever you feel like for that moment in time; I want to write about rainbows sometimes but feel as though people probably wouldn’t be interested in rainbows and what they taste like.

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Check out the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page!!

Facebook

Facebook is the most famous social networking site and is obviously now a part of pretty much everyone on the planets lives. You get up, you check Facebook, you’re at work, you check Facebook, you’re in the bathroom, you check Facebook. Facebook is very much ingrained in people’s lives that it is very easy to update in seconds with pictures, videos and statuses about what you are doing. I have also found that Facebook is a great place to upload photos to. I keep hard copies of all my travel photos, but for photos of nights out and amusing things that happen through my day I just upload to Facebook then delete them from my camera or my phone. When I was a volunteer I loaded all of my photos up to Facebook as a form of cloud storage which gave me so much free space to continue to take more and more pictures of my travels.

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Calling Cards / SIM Cards

Calling back to your home country is sometimes the number one thing volunteers want to organise when they get into Surin. SIM Cards are only 50B from any 7/11 and credit here in Thailand is incredibly cheap at only a few Baht a minute for calls both within Thailand and abroad. I always recommend people to get themselves a Thai SIM card even if they aren’t planning to make calls, because people who have a smart phone can still be charged for hooking up to the Internet by their home phone companies, whether that be Verizon, 3 or Vodaphone. Plus it is also MUCH, MUCH cheaper to call home countries from a Thai SIM than a home SIM; trust me you will be happy to return home without a massive phone bill waiting for you.

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Email

For me email is only used for business emails to companies and other members of staff, oh also to my Dad as well as he has absolutely no idea what Facebook is, how it works or even how it works. Emails are nearly as age old as letters these day but I think there is something quite nice about waiting for a few days and receiving a nice long email from my Dad about what him and his family have been up to.

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If you have any questions about any volunteer projects you can always Skype us!

Skype

Skype is probably the single greatest way of keeping in live contact with people across the world. I have so many friends that without Skype I would never be able to see or talk to them, the free calls that Skype provide are normally fantastic quality but this obviously depends on your Internet connection, speed and strength. I would recommend Skype to everyone, whether they are travelling or not, it gives you free phone calls that you can use on a laptop or PC but also on tablets like iPads, as well as on smart phones. I can call my Dad or my friends abroad from my phone like a regular phone call but it doesn’t cost me anything; which is my favourite thing 🙂

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Instant Messengers

As much as the messaging system on Facebook is great, actual text messaging is normally quicker and easier than doing the whole Facebook messenger thing. My favourite high speed instant messengers are Kik and What’s App, they can be used anywhere in the world and are instantaneous. You can send photos, videos, stickers and messages that are huge as well. In Thailand, and also across all of Asia, we also have an instant messenger called Line, Line is the same as Kik and What’s App but has a very definite Asian feel to it, I would suggest people to get Line if they are in Thailand or Asia for some time and want a way of communicating with friends they make locally, as people in Asia don’t really use Kik or What’s App as much as they use Line.

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Snapchat

I had Snapchat about a year ago now I think and I just didn’t understand the appeal of only being able to send a picture once, that you can’t save, to people who can only view it for a couple of seconds. Apparently I know nothing though as Snapchat has exploded into a huge thing that has taken over the world, everyone from Brazil to Burma has Snapchat nowadays and even though I don’t see the big deal about it, it is apparently a great way to share something that you are experiencing in that moment with lots of people at once.

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One of the many stupid faces I make for the folks on Snapchat 😀

You don’t have to keep in contact with people when you travel, for me, I like to have little to no Internet access when I travel; I think it distracts from everything else you are doing. How can you ever hope to enjoy a drive from Bangkok to Surin if all you are doing is checking Facebook the whole time. You miss so much by spending all your time with your head aimed to the ground staring at your phone. This is just me obviously and I have come to terms with being one of those odd people in life who really isn’t like anyone else, so if you need to keep in contact with your friends and family then all of the above methods are great to use, don’t think that because I didn’t mention carrier pigeon that you can’t use it though. I would love to use smoke signals more regularly but understand not many other people do 🙂

In order to keep in contact with me then check out my Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram pages, if you would rather come and hang out in person then take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page to choose your life changing volunteer project 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto